FORWARD at The Rock, a project started as an idea with humble beginnings, is motivated by the dire and growing need of a population in crisis.
F.O.R.W.A.R.D. was founded by concerned parents and friends of young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder and related disabilities to meet their ongoing residential and community living needs.
We were established as a 501(c) 3 non-profit with a mission to provide a small scale model housing community where disabled adults will prosper in a safe, supportive environment.
The 'FORWARD at the Rock' residence has been the projected goal of FORWARD since its' inception.
FORWARD recognizes that adults on the autism spectrum, although often requiring significant supports, should also have the opportunity to live as independently as possible. FORWARD has since partnered with HAC ( Housing Assistance Corporation) to submit a proposal to lease 4.9 acres of Town owned land on Hokum Rock Road in Dennis, MA.
The Town of Dennis' selectmen unanimously approved the proposal in August of 2015 for FORWARD to create affordable housing for adults with autism and related developmental disabilities on the Hokum Rock Road site.
Wayne Bergeron, a Dennis Selectman Board Member, called the approval of this project "an historic moment" that will benefit both the Town of Dennis and the surrounding communities.
Letter From The President of F.O.R.W.A.R.D.
Do you know someone with Autism? With 1 in 68 diagnosed with Autism chances are good that you are familiar with someone on this vast spectrum.
I want to tell you about the birth of an effort by a growing number of concerned citizens, some having adult children with Autism & related developmental disabilities, to address a looming crisis. For many years, the need to establish a fully supervised, “independent” living situation for young adults who have aged out of Special Needs education and supports, has been apparent. School counselors, family friends and Cape Cod neighbors have been working tirelessly to identify a site to meet their residential and community living needs.
F.O.R.W.A.R.D. has been established as a 501(C)3 non-profit to envision and develop a residential housing project to fit the needs of a unique, well loved group of individuals.
The Mission of F.O.R.W.A.R.D. is to provide a small scale model housing community where people with Autism and related disabilities will prosper in a safe, supportive environment. We hope that our Cape home will become a model for so many families and their communities needing to embrace this population.
We envision a vibrant living environment, connected to the community. F.O.R.W.A.R.D. will encourage full involvement within the community and provide opportunities for engagement and volunteerism, as residents are able to participate in.
We envision an environment where people with challenging communication and social skills feel comfortable in a shared living situation with 24/7 supervision: preparing meals or participating in a group activity in the Common Room, for example.
As responsible neighbors we are committed to engaging the community in understanding some of the challenges that face people with Autism. This fall we will co-host Autism training with ALEC, (the Autism and Law Enforcement Education Coalition), for the Dennis Fire and Police departments. The three hour training provides information to help first responders identify and effectively assist people on the Autism Spectrum.
80% of adults with Autism live at home with few supports and an unclear plan for the future when their families are no longer able to care for them. Those who live at home are largely isolated after their work day or day habilitation program is over. They could be working together to make a greater contribution to their community. That is why our founding board is made up of professionals and neighbors who have felt so rewarded in their work with this population during their school years.
We are keeping in step with the recent Massachusetts Autism Commission Report, (March 2013), which recommends that the Department of Developmental Disabilities, determine the number of people with Autism in Massachusetts and their support needs by implementing a plan for consistent statewide data collection”, & “increase the range of housing options for individuals with Autism”.
It is time to acknowledge the numbers of people living in our community with Autism.
The Commission reports that, “ housing capacity in existing programs is outstripped by demand”. In addition “ many adults with Autism who are DDS eligible may not be prioritized for this level of services and do not receive such a placement until a family crisis. This can result in a sudden, traumatic change in the living situation, with a loss of community ties and supports.”
“Lastly, the shortage of emergency housing for the general population affects individuals with Autism – those with Autism and not eligible for services that do not have the support of family or loved ones are at a high risk for becoming homeless.”
80 % of adults with Autism live at home, with few community supports and an unclear plan for the future when their families are no longer able to care for them. We see people who are isolated in their homes, individuals who could be making a greater contribution their community the support and collaboration of F.O.R.W.A.R.D.
As I mentioned, the Center for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 68 people are diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum today. That translates to approximately 98,000 people on the Spectrum in Massachusetts.
Help us build a model for this growing generation of developmentally disabled. The Cape and the world needs a model for a safe, productive shared home where people can develop to their greatest ability.
Let’s go F.O.R.W.A.R.D.,
Kathy McNamara Ohman, President, F.O.R.W.A.R.D.